November 02, 2005

Schizophrenia Linked to Immune System/Infection

A German research team has recently discovered that Chlamydia may be linked to the development of schizophrenia. Dr. Rudolf Wank of Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich led the study comparing incidences of Chlamydia in people with schizophrenia and those without. Of the 75 patients with schizophrenia, 40% also were infected by one or more of the three varieties of Chlamydia, compared with only 6% of people without schizophrenia. Dr. Wank also found that if the Chlamydia infection was treated with specially targeted immune cells, the symptoms of schizophrenia also improved, indicating that the bacterial infection does actually help cause the brain disorder.

The idea that an infection can have psychological side effects is not unheard of; however, it does raise some questions. How can Chlamydia cause a disorder of the brain when many people are infected with Chlamydia without developing schizophrenia? Obviously there are more factors involved than just a bacterial infection. Dr Ruth Itzhaki at the University of Manchester has been studying the link between Alzheimer’s and Herpes-1. Both she and Dr Wank have found that certain patterns of genes increase the likelihood that a bacterial infection will have a damaging effect and lead to the development of a disease of the brain. As stated by the author of this press release:

This is all very early work, not least because it has proved so hard to get funding, but it does suggest that already established antiviral or antibacterial treatments may have a role to play in the treatment of mental illness.

Burn, Jerome. Could mental illness be infectious? The Times. Sept 30, 2005

Related Articles:

Prenatal Infection Increases Risk of Schizophrenia
Cat Virus Linked to Schizophrenia
The Role of Infections in Schizophrenia
Flu and Schizophrenia


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